Don’t Let the Fiscal Cliff Silence Your Shop


Is the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff shutting down communication at your business? It’s highly likely since question marks prevail on the topic.

Fiscal cliff banter dominates every media outlet 24/7. And it’s more than likely that your employees are hearing the banter and the speculation, and wondering, what does that mean for me and my company?

Questions and apprehensions can easily choke end-of-the-year productivity more than any holiday party.

After all, as Pavlov noted in his Hierarchy of Needs it’s about me first, then about everything else.

So how can you keep your team focused and prevent the cliff from putting your team in a tailspin?

Here are four things to do now and keep doing until the Washington crowd comes to terms:

No. 1: Stay current. Plug into reliable news sources to keep you current about the ebb and flow of fiscal cliff discussions and decisions on Capitol Hill. Tune into nationa l and international news sources, and then narrow in on resources within your industry and  business trade. Read them daily to stay current. Sign up for blogs and email updates. Connect with online feeds from Congressional and Senate representatives from your legislative district. Source from both parties. Diversity of insight and input matters in your knowledge gains.

No. 2: Understand impact scenarios. Don’t be held hostage. Cobble together the pieces and get a handle on  how the fiscal cliff affects your industry and your company. Whether you are managing in a multinational or local enterprise, determine – as best you can – what the consequences of the cliff will be on your company. What effect will the tax increases and spending cuts have? Concrete answers will be elusive. But it’s time to play through various scenarios.

No. 3: Gather employees together. Don’t hide out in your office. Face time is more important now than ever—given the end of the year approaching compounded with the fiscal cliff fracas. Build time into your daily calendar for informal walkarounds to talk, one-on-one with team members. Supplement this with group communication practices—ideally, weekly team huddles or staff meetings. Regardless if you have answers to fiscal cliff-related questions about your company’s near-term future (and it’s unlikely that you do), bringing associates together to talk about the latest deliberations on Capitol Hill is healthy and helpful. A recent Associated Press poll found that 74% of Americans disapprove of how Congress is handling its job. Align that statistic with your workforce. Frustrated people want to vent. Let them.  But keep the discussion contained and emotions in check. A 10-minute huddle is ample time for sharing, airing and venting, in person or by teleconference. What’s important is that you listened and team members were heard!

No. 4: Be nimble. Given the volatility and unpredictability of the situation, flexibility matters in leading your team through the crisis of the fiscal clilff. Resolution could arrive  tomorrow, next month or whenever. Are you prepared to say things and, more importantly, do things that keep your employees’ confident in your leadership and the company’s direction? Put personal frustrations aside and rise to the role of helping to stay focused on goals, customers and commitments.  That’s a tall order. But having a leader who conveys calm and confidence rather than panic goes a long way to unifying and motivating team members through difficult times.

Linda Dulye is internationally recognized for helping many companies go spectator free. A former communications leader for GE and Allied Signal, Linda established Dulye & Co. in 1998 with a practical, process-driven approach for improving communications and collaboration through an engaged workforce— a formidable competitive advantage, that she calls a Spectator-Free Workplace™.